Sunday, 26 October 2014

Wimbledon Park Junior parkrun (event #38)

This was the first junior parkrun we visited that did not have a parent parkrun in the same park. There is of course a full 5k Wimbledon parkrun but that is held where the Wombles live on Wimbledon Common. However, just to the east, in the park described by Merton Council as ‘South London’s best kept secret’ you will find Wimbledon Park, the home of Wimbledon Park Junior parkrun.

pretty wildflowers around the start-finish area

Before visiting a new parkrun venue I always like to have a little look at the history and this one does not disappoint. A product of the last ice age, the land and the large ornamental lake that now forms Wimbledon Park was previously part of a larger open space in which Wimbledon House once stood. During the 18th century it was landscaped by ‘England’s greatest gardener’ landscape architect Capability Brown who designed over 170 parks in his lifetime. Over the years, the house and its surrounding land changed hands and gradually parts were sold off and used for other purposes.

the warm up session

Just before the First World War, the Borough of Wimbledon bought the land including the adjacent golf course which was later sold to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club by Merton Council leaving just the park and its ornamental lake in its ownership. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club is of course best known for the annual Wimbledon tennis tournament, and this does unfortunately have a knock-on effect to the junior parkrun; in 2014 the junior run was cancelled for three consecutive weeks in order to facilitate the tennis (I think the park is used as a camp site where fans can pitch a tent and be just across the road from the action).

away they go

We are now left with 27 hectares (67 acres) of green space in the middle of residential Wimbledon and what better way to use it on a Sunday morning than for a junior parkrun. The eastern edge of the park borders the district underground line, which is actually above ground at this point and every couple of minutes a train clatters past. There are two tube stations that serve the park – Wimbledon Park is the obvious one to head for, but Southfields tube station is just as close to the start-finish area.

almost at halfway

For the start/finish of the run, you need to head for the north east corner of the park where you’ll find lots of friendly folk dressed in hi-vis vests. This venue has a 9.30am start time (always double check in advance before going to a junior parkrun as start times and frequency of events vary between venues) and attracts around 100 official participants every week and when you add in the number of accompanying parents, this figure rises by about half again.

the halfway turnaround point

The park itself is a popular place for dog walkers so it's worth bearing that in mind before visiting. The course is 100% grass underfoot and is almost completely flat. It is preceded by a warm up session (which I missed while having a freedom run) and a briefing, once they are complete it’s down to business with a ready, GO!

running through the course marking cones

When designing the course here at Wimbledon Park Juniors they have been very clever – it would have been so easy to make this a two lap course, but when you do that the front and back of the pack can get mixed up and some children could cross the finish line after just one lap, making timing and finishing tokens a bit of a nightmare...

one of many hi-fives

... So what they have done is made the 1 kilometre loop of the park into an out-and-back with the halfway point being next to the start-finish area. This way the children all run out in one direction and only approach the finish line once they have completed the full course. Genius! Any new junior venues should definitely consider this approach.

well into the second half (approx 1.5km done)

Other features of the park are the tennis courts (of course), bowling green, mini golf, a playground and a watersports centre based over at the lake (it could hardly be anywhere else). There is also a cafe and some toilets, but these are on the south side of the park near the tennis courts so if you think you might need to visit the toilets before the run, plan in a little extra time.

the final sprint

Matilda's run went very well. She started off mid-pack, but being so small she slowly got overtaken by almost everyone else. Even so, she was not discouraged and plodded on at her favoured pace. I stayed in the middle of the park and wandered from point to point taking photos. Just after the turnaround point she asked me if I wanted to run with her. I happily obliged and we ran the second half together. The marshals were dishing out hi-fives and Matilda loved it. She had a short walking break towards the end, but as the finish line came into view, she found a little more energy and put in a great effort to cross the line.

matilda on the other side of the scanning process

The results were online a few hours later and Matilda ran a new 2 kilometre personal best, but not by a little. She totally smashed her previous best by a whopping 2 minutes and 28 seconds! Her 2 kilometre personal best now stands at 17.16, which works out at a pace of 8.38 per kilometre or 13.54 per mile. She of course doesn't understand what all the fuss is about but I'm very proud.

Note on freedom running: This is a difficult route to follow without the full course being marked out as it follows a route that is marked out using cones and poles on an open grass area.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Dartford parkrun 14 - transporting more stanchions, perfect conditions and a freedom run

After last weeks tough (muggy) conditions and subsequent awful run, I headed over to Central Park (carrying some stanchions) looking to return to being a sub-20 runner. The stanchions and directional signs I was carrying were part of the original kit that had been residing in my garage. The night before I and my little helper had sat down at home with the roll of adhesive velcro tape and finally finished off the job that we had started back in July.

velcro - stanchions - signage [photo:7t]

We now have a few extra signs for setting out the course if we have to change it during the winter when the weather could cause problems. As usual, me and Richey (ed) got to work setting out the course and before we knew it we were back at the Dartford Harriers clubhouse and the runners were arriving. I couldn't help but notice that there were less runners than usual - the start of the half-term and the xc races later that afternoon both most likely played a part.

ivy leaf corner [photo: richey estcourt]

When analysing our course I have noted that on paper the first kilometre should be the hardest of the run as it contains the entire elevation gain from the main park, across the bridge and also the uphill trail part. However, with fresh legs and the flow of the crowd, it quite often ends up being one of my fastest km splits. The second km is usual my fastest split and this is expected as it is the km with the most amount of elevation loss and no elevation gain - it is also about 90% tarmac.

during the final kilometre [photo:richey estcourt]

The third kilometre is almost entirely flat, but does have the slight incline across the bridge included. The fourth is the second hardest split on paper, but when you add the tiring legs, this in effect becomes the run's hardest kilometre split. It features the whole of the grass/trail section including the second helping of the uphill incline, and even though it also contains the twisty downhill path from Ivy Leaf Corner back to the main part of the park, it is still a toughy.

over the line [photo:richey estcourt]

The fifth and final kilometre is almost all on tarmac and flat, but it does feature the twisty section around the gardens at the front of the park. The very last part of the last km is back on the grass which is a little bumpy underfoot, but shouldn't take too much time away as the runner is probably flat out by this point anyway.

matilda taking care of the finishing tokens [photo:richey estcourt]

Conditions for the day's run were perfect; 9 degrees, no wind, and partly cloudy. Underfoot the grass and trail part was still holding up pretty well. The uphill trail section was covered in leaves and it made the tree roots hard to spot at times. I started well and instantly felt so much better than at the previous week's run-to-forget. As I started lap two, I and two other runners had formed a pack and I really enjoyed running in this way. I did indeed manage to get back under 20 minutes so I am very pleased.

my favourite volunteering role [photo:richey estcourt]

Upon crossing the finish line, I saw that my daughter was giving out finishing tokens and it was awesome to see her smiling face before she handed me my token. Once the scanning had been sorted (yes, I'm still running and scanning every week), I handed the scanner and tokens to Tessa for processing, and headed off to collect the signage from around the course. With that done I spent a bit of time in the clubhouse drinking tea, chatting and being chased around by a little tiger.

people of dartford, take note [photo:7t]

To finish the morning off, I joined Richey for a freedom run before heading off to the market to pick up a few bargains. This was a very good parkrunday! I've left you all with a photo of the notice that Dartford parkrun is cancelled on 1st November 2014 - please spread the word! I'm hitting the road for a spot of parkrun tourism next week and I'm reaaaaally looking forward to it!

Friday, 24 October 2014

New Balance SS15 Press Day

I was lucky enough to be invited to the New Balance UK Spring-Summer 2015 press launch event at Hoxton Arches in the trendy part of the east end of London. As the title suggests, the event was held to showcase their new products for the upcoming spring and summer, it contained all of their new 'lifestyle' shoes and of course, their running shoes.

hoxton arches

I finished work and because I didn't fancy taking the tube, I ran the 6km from Westminster. Upon arrival I was greeted and then introduced to one of New Balance's professional athletes - Mark Draper and he talked me through the new updated ranges.

The standard lines

My main interest was with the update of the 1080 range and I must say that the shocking green/yellow of the V5 is one that I'd like to get my hands on when they are released.

If you have read my 1080v3 and 1080v4 blog posts you'll know that I love the v3 but I wasn't entirely happy with the changes that were made to fit around the heel of the v4. While at the event I had a chance to talk about this and discovered that the v5 is built on the same last as the v4 which means that, sadly, this particular issue will probably still exist.

The other road shoes that were of interest to me were the M1500, which is a racier shoe than I usually wear but one that I am keen to try at some point.

1080v5 mens
1080v5 womens
860v5 (stability shoe)
m1500 (sorry about the blurriness)

Fresh Foam

The updated versions of the 'Fresh Foam' range were also on show. This range is made up of the 'soft and smooth' 'Boracay' and its lower profiled and racier 'Zante' which comes with the tagline 'smooth just got fast'. They also had the updated Fresh Foam 980 trail shoes.

large fresh foam molecules
fresh foam
fresh foam boracay
fresh foam zante
fresh foam 980 trail
fresh foam 980 trail


While on the subject of trail shoes, I also had a peak at the new version of the 'Leadville' 1210. I had previously tried the original on and found that they are A LOT of shoe which put me in an unusually elevated position. With the word Leadville in the name, you can tell that this is a shoe that is designed for very long runs.

1210 'leadville' (grey and green)

The last few shoes looked like they were the children's range - although this is just my assumption going by the small size of the shoes. There were options for road and trail.


So that's about it. I think I photographed pretty much all of the running shoes that were there. New Balance UK no longer stock the minimus range (which I understand is still produced and going strong elsewhere) so there were none of these on show.

With that done, I headed back out onto the road to continue my evening's running with a short 3km trot down to Cannon Street to catch the train home.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Brockwell Junior parkrun (#19)

Brockwell Park in South London is a gently undulating and pretty park with views across to Central London from its highest point. I first ran in this park at Brockwell parkrun [my blog] with my daughter in her running buggy on a drizzly morning in May 2013. Since then a junior event has been set up in the park and we paid it a visit on drizzly morning (that cleared up before the run) in October 2014.

brockwell juniors start [photo:7t]

Upon arrival we had a choice of parking in the Lido car park or out on the adjacent street - the streets have meters but they are only in use between Monday and Friday. We left the car on the street and headed into the park. As we were quite early I decided to have a cheeky freedom run around the standard 5k course, then once I had finished I did the same for the 2k junior course.

warmup [photo:7t]

By then the event team had arrived and had begun setting the course up and organising the volunteers. I had my camera with me so I offered to volunteer as photographer [photos here]. My wife also volunteered and took on the role of tail runner. The start/finish is located on the grass just opposite the lido (next to an odd looking building - see photo) and as this venue attracts a good number of participants, you couldn't fail to miss it.

runners almost ready to go [photo:7t]

There were a few workmen laying some cobbles next to the path and their van had been partially blocking the course, however they were more than happy to move it onto the grass before the run started. To be on the safe side an extra marshal was required at this spot, so headed over and doubled up as photographer and marshal.

taken from my marshaling spot halfway up the hill [photo:7t]

As you may have spotted, junior parkruns are all on Sundays but do not all have the same start time. At the time of writing Brockwell Junior parkrun has a 9.30am start time and I would definitely advise checking the official page of any junior parkrun before visiting. A few minutes before the start time, there was the usual parkrun briefing and then a warm up session for all of the kids. The participants then took their places on the start line. Seconds later they were off.

matilda looking comfortable and focused on the incline [photo:7t]

This is a two lap course with a little tail that links the start/finish to the triangular loop that creates the lap, and with the exception of the grass start/finish area, takes place on tarmac paths. For the first 100 metres or so along the tail is flat, then there's a left hand turn and the runners are heading up an incline. At the top of the incline, the runners swing to the right at the junction and head back downhill which flattens out before another right hand turn leads the runners on a slight incline back towards the end of the lap, the runners then turn right to complete the loop again.

sporting our trademark sock pairing [photo:7t]

Once the two laps have been completed, the runners head back along the tail towards the start/finish area, where they transfer back onto the grass and enter the finish funnel, collect their finish token, get scanned and have a well deserved rest.

i loved the oversized hand hi-fives [photo:7t]

It's worth noting that there are a lot of dog walkers in this park so if you have children that are nervous around dogs it might be an idea to accompany them around the course. Even though many will be used to the large amount of runners in the park, there still may be some dogs that could pose a risk to runners - I heard of one incident in the park (not with a child) straight after writing this blog.

just a few hundred metres from the end [photo: 7t]

As far as my daughter's run goes, she powered past my marshalling point on her first lap going up the hill, but then she didn't come back past me on lap two. It turns out that she was running with another girl that had decided to only complete one lap and had followed her, but after finding my daughter and reminding her that it was a two lap course she carried on with me in tow up the hill, round the corner, down the hill, and round the corner until we finally noticed the finish line in sight - from here it was a mad dash to the end with her pipping me to the post!

the finish line in sight [photo:7t]

With the confusion of her run and the timers thinking everyone had finished, the stopwatches had all been stopped. Fortunately everything was resolved and she was given a finish time of 21 minutes flat. I asked her what she thought of the course and she said that she liked it but wasn't too keen on the hill. I must add that on the way to the run she was telling me that she loves hills!

finisher 83 entering the finish funnel [photo:7t]

Despite only being going for 19 events at the time of our visit, this venue has already attracted a really healthy number of runners and at the event we attended there were 83 finishers, when you add in the number of parents running with their children the total number of runners would have been well in excess of 100.

just some finish tokens being sorted on a wall [photo:7t]

It's another really nice venue for a junior parkrun, as always the volunteers are fab and if you have the time it is definitely worth hanging around after the run to visit one of its attractions for example the playground or, if the weather is really good, the lido.
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